That’s the half of it: MC women control USAC destiny at midpoint
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
It’s OK to circle Feb. 6 on the calendar.
Most everybody else has it noted already as the home stretch of the USA South Athletic Conference women’s schedule comes into view.
With nine conference games done and nine remaining, Maryville College (14-2, 8-1 USAC) still controls its own fate despite Sunday’s loss to Christopher Newport. With the undefeated frontrunners Ferrum, CNU and MC all squaring off against each other over a five-day span last week, everybody dropped one, and N.C. Wesleyan’s upset of CNU ended up providing the only separation in the standings.
“It’s disappointing, because we were almost there, to getting through this five-game run undefeated. To go 4-1 isn’t the worst thing in the world. Sunday was an opportunity to get some separation, but they brought it to us early, and we didn’t counter,” MC coach Darrin Travillian said. “So we went 4-1. We’ll try and regroup a little bit. We figured some things out as a team, I figured some things out as a coach, and we’ll get better from that.”
Maryville holds the head-to-head tiebreaker after defeating then-No. 21 Ferrum (14-1, 8-1), but the Lady Panthers have the better overall record, none of which may matter as the unbalanced schedule has MC traveling to Ferrum, Va., Feb. 6 to complete a home-and-away USAC series. The newly expanded 12-team league incorporated a drawing for the seven teams each school would play twice and the four it would play just once. That format has provided some interesting first-year situations.
As pairing partners, teams are getting Ferrum and Maryville in succession each conference weekend, and the pair have the same set of four teams they play only once — Averett, Mary Baldwin, NC Wesleyan and CNU — making the stretch run extremely equal in terms of schedule strength. But in the case of Christopher Newport, the Captains — who fell out of the poll from No. 16 to just ahead of MC in the receiving votes category — won’t see Ferrum or MC again until the conference tournament. The Captains also spend much of the back half at home after several weeks of travel.
“We were proud of the girls. This was our ninth road game in a row and seventh in-conference. I’ve been coaching 20 years, and I’ve never been given more than three road games in a row in a conference, not sure what happened there,” CNU coach Bill Broderick told The Daily Times after Sunday’s game. “Maryville and Ferrum to me are both top 25 teams. Being able to gut out a win here help keeps us in the race. We had a tough set back at North Carolina Wesleyan, which puts us back a little back behind these guys.”
Ferrum went 2-1 last week with the loss to Maryville and moved up one spot to No. 20 in the D3 http://Hoops.com Poll released Monday. The Lady Panthers host Mary Washington (12-5) Wednesday in their last nonconference game, then play leapfrog with MC the rest of the way, with that Feb. 6 meeting between the two as the exception.
The Scots know what they have to do on the back half — win. If Maryville wins out, it is the No. 1 seed. If not, it’ll likely have to go through both Ferrum and CNU in the conference tourney.
“This was a five tough games, but at least it at was at home. Now we go on the road for five, with the last one being Ferrum in another crazy midweek game packed around those weekends,” Travillian said of the road ahead. “We have two teams we haven’t played yet in that first leg, Mary Baldwin and Averett, then we start repeating the other seven.”